Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Like most people when I found out about The Outer Worlds I was pretty excited. After all it was made by Obsidian who were behind Fallout: New Vegas. Obsidian is also a studio comprised of mostly ex-Black Isle Studio employees that brought you Fallout 2, the Baldur's Gate series, Planescape:Torment and other memorable RPG titles. So the enthusiasm bar was set kind of high, unfortunately The Outer Worlds is a decent game overall, it falls short on almost everything it does. Not even necessarily in a bad way either, you can just see where they could've done so much more with the game than what they actually did. This play through was done on the Xbox One X and with a Silver Tongued Rogue build.
Graphics, Audio and Performance
So, as with most games of this generation(One X and PS4 Pro) the graphics I can't knock. I didn't have any frame rate issues. Everything ran smooth. There is one well known bug though towards the end of the game where walking through a door makes the game crash. You can click here to see what I'm talking about and learn how to avoid it.
The art style seems like a take on Bioshock with a No Man's Sky color scheme. It's got some vivid colors and there's lots of things that catch your eye. The backgrounds are pretty breath taking if you stop to just look around and enjoy the sights. There's something awesome about looking up into the sky and not only seeing another planet, but the rings of the planet you're currently on as well up in the sky. It's a pretty visually appealing game.
The audio will take you back though, if you pay attention to the music score I swear they've reused some music from New Vegas; especially when you're just out exploring. It sounds like they reused the same music score from New Vegas when you're just out wandering the desert. Music score aside, the weapons sound kind of generic when firing and your standard sound effects are there. The voice acting is actually not bad. There were only a few instances where I felt like the voice actors were just phoning it in. Overall the audio is passable. It could be a lot better but it could also be way worse.
This is where my biggest criticism of The Outer Worlds is going to take place. So get ready this is where this review gets long winded.
First, you create your character. There's nothing special about the character creation process here. Standard affair that you are accustomed to if you're even the slightest bit familiar with Obsidian's previous work. You have your stat points that you distribute that also will directly affect starting points for certain skills. You can change the appearance of your character and pick an aptitude; which is just a fancy way of picking a predetermined backstory for your character which comes with it's own minimal buffs depending on what you pick. Your skill tree is also very generic. Once you get your skills up to 50, you can start adding the level up skill points directly to whatever skill you would like, instead of just a generalized category like Ranged, Dialog, Stealth, Defense, Melee and Tech. There's nothing too special about any of the skills I noticed in my play through that made me want to really max anything out. I think the closest I got was 80 with my persuade and a 90 with my lock pick. It's also worth noting that your companions and your equipment will add to certain skills too so that makes life a little easier if you find the right equipment and have the right companions with you.(Just a heads up, there are perks that add bonuses to certain skills if you choose to adventure alone. So companions aren't necessary.)
Next gripe are the perks. I don't really know who thought these perks were worth making, but I really had a hard time picking perks I felt mattered. Sure, there were one or two in each tier, but after you get the perks you really wanted, you had to waste perk points on random perks just to be able to unlock the next tier. The same goes for your companion's perk tree as well. While it's mostly useless perks, in hindsight, I think their skill tree was more useful than your character's own skill tree.
One thing Obsidian did to mix things up and give depth to your character is they put in Flaws. These Flaws pop up when certain conditions are met while just playing the game and will give you negative modifiers to your character in exchange for a perk point. For instance I fought a lot of Primals and took the Phobia perk, which made me lose some dexterity, perception and something else whenever I fought Primals, in exchange for a perk point. This was the only flaw I ever took in the game because, as I said above, the perks aren't that great and the trade off didn't seem worth it to me at all.
The combat is also mediocre at best. Once you start getting towards the level cap of 30, it seems like the enemies get artificially "harder" by being able to take more damage. I don't even want to call them bullet sponges but it's definitely noticeable. Seems like even sneak attacks to the head for a critical hit didn't take out anything higher than your standard enemy at the higher levels. Your AI companions also have modifiable behaviors, but it seems like they just have a mind of their own when it comes to combat. I've heard that if you change it they either just stand there and watch you take care of everything while getting shot or they just shoot at the enemies even if they're point blank range, ignoring the fact they've got melee weapons. So I kept mine on default and they would just rush the enemies after first contact was made even if I was trying to sneak. I don't think there's actually a good AI behavior.
The Outer Worlds also relies on a fairly simplistic ammo system: Light, Heavy and Energy. Ammo is everywhere so you don't have to worry about running out, especially if you use a combination of each ammo type. Melee weaponry is pretty basic too, one or two handed weapons that range from simple swords and axes to hammers and scythes.
As in most games Obsidian has made, you have a non-lethal way of doing things through dialogue and other espionage-esque skills. I actually played through with a silver tongue rogue build and I think that build gave me the upper hand throughout the entire game making the game itself way too easy. There were only a handful of locks I wasn't able to lock pick, or consoles I couldn't hack, or conversations I couldn't make go my way.
Given how many locks, consoles, and dialogue attempts The Outer Worlds has in it, I think the game is geared towards this kind of a play through. It seems like it would be much harder for a strictly melee/power build to navigate the world. Because The Outer Worlds is not like Knights of the Old Republic where you could manually switch to your companions and use their skills to your advantage. If your character doesn't have the base skill level+bonus your companions give you to certain skills, you aren't accessing that room, container, console, or lying your way out of a situation. However almost every conversation gives you every option you would expect out of an Obsidian game. So hats go off to them for giving us that staple and keeping it untouched.
Exploring is also a pretty touchy subject with me in The Outer Worlds. I was expecting a big sandbox to play around in. When I saw the galaxy map for the first time I thought that each destination was going to be a sandbox for me to play in. Well, it is to an extent. Every destination is a sand box to play in; one of those little plastic turtle sandboxes you buy at Wal-Mart and fill with sand so your 3 year old has something to play in.
The sizes of the areas are pretty laughable and they reuse a lot of the interior/ exterior building models. Some of the areas seemed like they took me a long time to explore, but upon further inspection it was merely because the paths I had to follow were twisty and turny making the journey seem longer than it really was or had to be. Obsidian peppers in some locations to discover and some of those locations become fast travel spots but ultimately you can walk the distances if you want to in little time. It might say 900m away but you'll be there in 2 minutes of running if you ignore everything and just want to get to your destination. Maybe 4 minutes if you don't take the walking/running faster perks.
I suppose next on the list should be the vanilla take Obsidian took on equipment. Sure, there are "legendary" items and these weird weapons called Science Weapons but for the most part, you're going to see the same equipment over and over again, with only the name changed. Like Spacer Pistol, Spacer Pistol MK2, Spacer Pistol Ultra, and Spacer Pistol Gold. You can also Tinker with your weapons and armor. Which means you can use bits(the currency in The Outer Worlds) to raise the level of your equipment and yep, you guessed it, the higher you raise the level the more bits it takes. You can also raise the level of your equipment higher than your current level by 5 levels I believe. Which means you can be level 15 and use a level 20 item *if* you've tinkered it up to that level only. I don't think I ever actually came across an item in the wild that was higher level than I was, only the equipment I tinkered with got higher level than my character. While the tinkering option sounds cool, it kind of limits the usefulness of the "legendary" and Science weapons you find. Because you find those types of items early on and you might find a normal weapon of higher level that outshines the "legendary" item you're using. So you'd have to raise your "legendary" item in level to match the newly found equipment level but spend thousands of bits in the process. For instance there's a "legendary" gun you find in Edgewater, the starting area, called Ol' Reliable. It's not bad. It's a heavy weapon and early on it gets the job done. But it ultimately becomes useless after a few levels because it becomes so expensive to raise in level with what you're finding out in the wild. Meaning that you just end up putting the "legendary" weapons, and science weapons, into a storage container on the ship. I found a knock off Thor's Hammer on Monarch, but it was so crappy compared to what one of my companions was using, it just went into the container too. Very disheartening. I really think Obsidian could've done better on their equipment variety and bits needed to level up a "legendary" item.
You can also modify your armor and weapons with different mods you find throughout your adventures or buy from the vendors. The mods themselves seem to suffer the same fate as the equipment. You just find the same ones over and over again. Each weapon or piece of armor either has, or doesn't have, a number of slots you use to put the mods into your equipment. It's kind of important to keep note of this, with the weapons specifically, because not all weapons will allow full modification. So be careful before you scrap a weapon for a higher level weapon, only to find out the higher level weapon will only take a magazine modification and nothing else.
Lastly I guess I should address the Companion dynamic and the Faction Reputations. I don't even know if it really needed to be in the game? Nothing you really seem to do really bothers your companions. They might say something, but ultimately there's no companion reputation gauge you have to worry about. There's a couple dialogue interactions that seem like they give you the option to make a choice that would make that certain companion leave your party though. Same as with the Faction Reputations. Unless you go through and just murder everyone you see, and piss off everyone you encounter, it's damn near impossible to have the factions hate you. Even then, having the factions see you as favorable only nets you a discount on items and they won't attack on sight. Yay.
There are certain points in the story where your companions will ask to talk to you about something when you're on the ship and these give interesting insights to the characters themselves but that's really about it. Sometimes ADA, the ships' AI, will tell you that there's an interaction going on between two of your companions somewhere on the ship and you can go and watch it unfold. Like Ellie enjoys to pick on the Vicar while Felix and Parvati like to talk about aetherwave shows for example.
I admit, the story for The Outer Worlds isn't anything phenomenal at all. It's a pretty basic once you get down to it. You've been revived from a colony ship,The Hope, that was supposedly lost in space filled with Earths most brilliant minds frozen in a cryogenic stasis. You're the only hope Halcyon has to survive and escape the clutches of the corporate conglomerates known as The Board that rule the citizens with obedience and an iron fist. You pick up a few companions along the way, each with their own little personalities and side quests, bounce between a few locations doing glorified fetch quests, and boom, you've got the outline of how The Outer Worlds campaign/story operates. There's nothing all that memorable about the story, no "Oh my god!" moments that stuck out and the side quests are about as forgettable. The most important of story line directions you have to choose between involves the MSI and Iconoclasts on Monarch. Past that decision, everything else didn't seem to matter much at all.
The companion quests are probably the more memorable quests in the game just simply because they're different than the rest of the games' objectives. However, all the choices that you do make throughout the game end up determining what kind of an ending you do get. So, at least there's that to look forward to. Knowing that while your choices might not show any significance right off the bat, there is meaning to them down the road. Also a fun little addition was that the loading screens will mimic the decisions you've made throughout the game as well so you'll see different loading screen messages depending on the choices you've made.
After everything is said and done The Outer Worlds doesn't really live up to the hype it got. While I think Obsidian could've done a lot better in certain areas, like the equipment, scale of the areas, companion relationships, and combat, I didn't hate my time with The Outer Worlds either. It was an enjoyable experience for what it was. This is definitely a game I'm glad I was able to play through Xbox's Game Pass though. I wouldn't have wanted to have spent the full $60 on it, and neither should you. If you don't have Game Pass, I'd wait until this title inevitably goes on sale during the holidays to scoop it up. I could see this being well worth the $40 +/- it would be during the holiday sales.